Cats are fairly independent and may even act like they don’t need their human family around all the time. But most pet parents know their cat does in fact love their company. Sometimes we need to leave our cats home alone to go to work or take a vacation. As a concerned pet parent, you’re probably asking yourself: how long can you leave your cat alone?
How long can cats safely be left alone?
Most adult cats are fine being left home alone for up to 24 hours, under the right conditions (more on that below). If you need to leave for two or three days, a full week, or longer, you should make sure someone is coming over to care for your cat daily. If you leave your cat alone for too long it can cause boredom, stress, separation anxiety, and unwanted behavior – not to mention the risk of accidents or illness.
Kittens need more care and shouldn’t be left alone for longer than 4 hours. This is especially true for kittens under four months old, who need the most attention and more frequent feeding. Once your kitten reaches the six-month mark, you’ll probably be alright leaving them alone during your workday.
Senior cats might be more affected by changes to their routine, so be aware of the potential for anxiety and monitor their behavior for signs of stress when you return. If your older cat has a special feeding schedule or requires medication at specific times, they’ll need regular check-ins.
What does your cat need when left alone?
No matter how long you will be away, your cat will need the following while they’re home alone:
Leave out dry food for your cat, especially if your cat tends to eat small amounts throughout the day. If you’re worried about your cat overeating, you can consider an automated feeder that works with an app to dispense food at scheduled times. If your cat eats frozen raw cat food, freeze-dried raw, or wet food, feed when you’re home or when the pet sitter stops by.
Cat Food Safety Tips
Use these guidelines to help you schedule pet sitting visits that work with your cat’s normal feeding times:
Raw cat food shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. To make serving frozen raw food easier for your cat sitter, you can thaw multiple servings and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freeze-dried raw cat food can sit out for up to 2 hours if rehydrated, and for up to 12 hours if served dry. Rehydrated freeze-dried raw food can be kept in the fridge for up to two days before serving.
Wet cat food (after opening) also has a cap of 2 hours at room temperature. Any longer, and the risk of bacterial contamination is too high (plus the texture changes as it dries, and your cat may refuse to touch it).
Check out our pet sitter checklist for even more helpful tips!
Be sure your cat has plenty of water. Consider putting out extra bowls of water and/or using a water dispenser if your cat will be alone overnight.
If you’ll be gone for multiple days, be sure to tell your pet sitter to clean and dry the cat’s food and water dishes once a day (or leave a supply of clean dishes for them to use).
Clean the litter box before you leave and consider putting out a second litter box if you have multiple cats and will be away for a while. Litter boxes should be cleaned about once a day to prevent your cat from avoiding it (and possibly expressing their displeasure on your belongings).
Remove dangerous and/or valuable items
Consider climate control
Make sure your thermostat is set to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature for your cat. Smart thermostats make it even easier by letting you check and control your settings remotely.
It may be tempting to close all your shades for energy savings or privacy while you’re away, but consider leaving one or two open so your cat can nap in a sunny spot and enjoy looking out the window.
Audio visual options
There are a lot of different video monitoring systems that let you check in on your fur-babies from a smartphone. This is a great way to give yourself peace of mind when traveling, or provide a quick mood boost during the workday! Some cameras even have two-way audio so you and your cat can hear each other’s voices.
If you know your cat enjoys (or is accustomed to) having the TV or music playing, you can let a show or music stream on low volume while you’re gone.
Prepare your cat for your absence
If you or other family members will be leaving home more often for longer periods of time, whether going back to the office or starting school or a new job, prepare your cat for the change.
Set a routine
Get up at your anticipated new time and go through the motions, including anything you do that would affect your cat, such as filling their water bowl or cleaning the litter box. This will help your cat adjust to new patterns of activity in the house.
Schedule feeding times
If you feed your cat at certain times, you may need to change the times to work with your new schedule. Ease into the new feeding times so your cat has time to adjust.
Keep your cat busy
Although cats certainly do take a lot of naps during the day, they also spend time being alert and active. Make sure they have access to a few windows and leave some cat enrichment activities or toys out for them to chase around.
Should I Try Cat Boarding?
It’s okay to leave your cat home alone for up to a day, whether you have to go to work or go out and run errands. With a little bit of prep, your cat will be just fine at home in your absence. However, if you need to be away for more than a day, it’s best to have a friend or pet sitter check in and help care for your cat until you return. This is ideal because your cat gets to stay where they’re most comfortable. If you can’t arrange for someone to look after your cat at home, professional pet boarding is the next best option. You can ask a friend or your cat’s veterinarian for a recommendation. If boarding your cat, you should bring along their favorite bed, blanket, and/or toys to help them feel more comfortable.
You should also supply enough of your cat’s regular food for their stay. Stella & Chewy’s canned wet cat food comes in two sizes for easy portioning. Our raw coated and raw blend dry cat foods provide the benefits of freeze-dried raw protein with the convenience of kibble. Explore recipes below, or learn more about the benefits of a raw diet for cats.